JERUSALEM – Four U.N. observers killed in an Israeli airstrike in Lebanon in July were mistakenly targeted because of inaccurate military maps, Israel said in a report released Thursday.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said the report was given to diplomats from Canada, China, Finland and Austria, which each had an unarmed observer killed in the July 25 airstrike in the town of Khiam near the Lebanese-Israeli border.
"The findings of the inquiry are that at the time the ordnance was launched, the target we perceived that we were hitting was a Hezbollah military position," Regev said. "That was a mistake because what was targeted was the U.N. post."
Regev said deployment at the time of fresh Israeli forces in the area, where there was intense Hezbollah activity, brought a need to duplicate maps and charts.
"In that process, unfortunately, the U.N. post was not accurately mapped," Regev said. "When our aircraft launched its ordnance it believed it was targeting Hezbollah. This was a mistake, it shouldn't have happened."
He said the report detailed Israeli standing orders at the time, which "said unequivocally that it is totally prohibited to target U.N. personnel and U.N. positions."
The United Nations has said that before the airstrike, U.N. observers in Lebanon telephoned the Israeli military 10 times in six hours to ask it to stop shelling near their position. The strike sparked international anger against Israel.
U.N. officials said the observation position was well marked. A picture the world body released July 26 showed the three-story building was painted white with the letters "U.N." emblazoned in large black letters on all sides, and a light blue U.N. flag hung from a nearby flagpole that was roughly 50 feet high.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan had said that the attack on the observation post in the Lebanese town Khiam was "apparently deliberate."
The U.N. is expected to issue its own report on the incident.